Conventionally, a strong leader is the one who sees things clearly and is articulate about his vision and priorities. She or he is not a push-over; is determined; stays the course and focused. There is no room for dilly-dallying about a decision. As our world has been changing, strong leaders need to adapt where required. Is this an area where the leaders need to change their approach? A new book called ‘Persuadable’ by Al Pittampalli:says, it’s the smart thing to do!
Common sense suggests, a leader will fail to inspire the team if the vision is not clear and the goal is not compelling. These are basics in any team situation. No team can be successful if there is any variability in the principles that govern it. For example, diversity is an established principle for some organizations and the leader has to consistently uphold this by examples and actions. If this principle is compromised from time to time, the leader appears weak, the organization loses pace and stands to lose. Organizations and leaders define their operating rules to embody these principles. Again to illustrate the principle of diversity, the organization defines its recruitment rules to encourage onboarding talent from diverse backgrounds. For strong organizations and leaders, the principles do not change; they remain firm and solid. Rules could be bent or broken a few times by some people. The leaders adjudicate on those situations based on their conscience and the context. The ancient epic, Ramayan shows how Ravan did not follow the principles of humanity by stealing Ram’s wife; neither did he follow the rules while stealing her and the attempts before the act. Thus, he lost everything including his life. Similarly, in the Mahabharat, we see that Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas was getting disrobed in the King’s court violating the principles around modesty of a woman though the rules were being followed properly. The courtiers were caught up with the red tape of the rules. Since the Pandavas had lost the bet on their wife in the ill-fated and rigged game of dice, the item lost in the bet belonged to the winner and could be treated the way the winner pleased to deal with it. This rule did not align with the principle, but the leaders couldn’t recognize this and hence, lost everything eventually. If we have to learn from these epics and apply our common sense, it doesn’t seem to be a great idea for the leader to demonstrate any variability in the principles or values that define who they are.
However, there is a certain degree of freedom in the rules which embody these principles. And the rules need to be defined, implemented and reviewed from time to time, else the organization stays caught in the labyrinth of the past. A leader must be proactive and flexible to examine if the rules are good for the purpose or not.
Last but not the least, the leader is not a superhuman that she or he would have solutions to all the challenges on the journey. It is quite alright to consult with people within the organization as well as outside to develop perspectives rather than being very stuck to just one line of thinking. The new perspectives or knowledge gained might not be exactly an opposite of the stance that the leader seemed to believe a priori; even if it does, it’s alright to show humility and flexibility to learn and absorb new inputs.
Collaboration is the new mantra! So, the leaders must leverage on it. One must be clear if it is a matter relating to principles or rules. If they pertain to the principles, flip flop is not a great idea but for a matter of a rule or a priority or a program, it is a must that a leader shows her strength by staying flexible.
One remembers what Mahatma Gandhiji had said, “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the culture of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”